Prop. 8 affecting those whose marriage is legal … as well as their families

By Kim Harris, shades Magazine

Over the past 10 years, same-sex couples have increasingly pushed to gain rights to protect their relationships and their families, under the law.

Photo credit: The 5th Ape

Proposition 8 – the California ballot proposition, which made same-sex marriage illegal in 2008, is now being considered by the federal appeals court after being overturned on Aug. 4 by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

Akilah Bolden-Monifa has been with her partner, Ruthie, for 15 years and together, they have two adopted children. The same-sex couple was legally married in October 2008 in anticipation that Prop. 8 would pass and they would not be allowed to wed. Their fears were realized; the Bolden-Monifa’s are one of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who wed in 2008 whose union remains valid.

Bolden-Monifa says her children, ages 6 and 9, are only recently beginning to notice the social implications of their two-mother family.

“They have two moms so they had no idea that women couldn’t get married,” said Bolden-Monifa, noting that the tense political climate of Prop. 8 was introduced to her children through protests that the family was involved in and by bullying at school.

“My son at one point went and did it with me, a little protesting, in front of Grand Lake Theatre,” said Bolden-Monifa.

In the second grade, her daughter was confronted by another child who chanted “Yes on 8;” another time, the father of her daughter’s play date said his child could no longer play with her because her mothers were lesbians.

“They didn’t know there was anything wrong with it,” Bolden-Monifa said.

California has the highest number of adopted children living with gay or lesbian parents – more than 16,000, according to a study conducted by the Urban Institute and the Williams Institute at UCLA.

Bolden-Monifa said her marriage made it possible for her to have the hyphenated name that her children took at birth. “By getting married we were able to legally change our last names to match our children’s names,” said Bolden-Monifa.

Bolden-Monifa said that just because there is a law doesn’t mean attitudes toward same-sex couples and their families will change automatically, and that it will take time to create acceptance.

“I think changing someone’s mind is not a one-time conversation. It’s being exposed to it over a long period of time,” said Bolden-Monifa, referencing the once-illegal interracial marriage.

She said it is important for people to understand that “good” parenting is case-by-case and doesn’t have anything to do with the sexual orientation of the parent.

A study published in June by the Journal of Pediatrics showed that children in households with two mothers had significantly better behavior than their counterparts and “demonstrate healthy psychological development.”

Bolden-Monifa said that even though there were studies that showed lesbian mothers were raising behaviorally and psychologically healthy children, it is more about having two involved parents, rather than two parents with one absent.

Moving forward: How will the ongoing battle for equal rights impact current and future same-sex marriages? Will these unions further re-define the nuclear family? Stay tuned for a closer look at the long-term impact of Prop. 8 on the 21st-century blended family at myshadesmagazine.net.

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